Quick and easy version:
Long, rambling version:
I went into this race knowing I had a shot of beating my PR from 2014 (1:38:48). But I wasn’t sure if I could pull off much more than a 10-20 second PR. My overall pace in 2014 was 7:32, so I figured my basic strategy for 2016 would be to keep my pace under 7:30.
The race start time was 7:00 AM. I was up at 5:00 AM sharp so I could down some coffee and toast with peanut butter and banana slices. I think I benefited tremendously from an actual breakfast during my last long run before the race. It helped me today as well, especially considering that I had a minor disaster with the gel I’d brought.
My boyfriend kindly drove me to the start and was present at the finish line. I don’t usually ask him to do anything when I race– I feel bad enough about my alarm going off at 5:00 AM on a Sunday– but it was really nice to not have to worry about parking. And it was nice to hang out in a heated car for a bit before braving the Port o Potty lines. It was 37 degrees and dark at the start, which made me feel very ready to start running!
In previous years I’ve started out with the 1:45 pace group in an effort to keep my first mile(s) very controlled. I was more aggressive this year. I lined up a little behind the 1:40 pacers and then tried to keep them within view. Sometime during mile 1 (7:30) I passed them and then focused on keeping them behind me. I hit mile 2 in 7:22, which felt too fast but the 1:40 pacers were right on my heels which confused me because they should have been at roughly 7:37 pace. Miles 3 (7:20) and 4 (7:19) were more of the same: worrying that I was running too fast while also feeling concerned that I wasn’t fast enough to PR because the 1:40 pacers were so close Finally I heard the pacers behind me mention that their pace was a little too fast and I felt a lot better!
At mile 5 (7:18) I was cruising the downhills and realized I should probably use a gel. (I had two in the zippered pocket of my shorts). I should mention that the shorts I wore are a pair I’ve had since 2008/2009. I’ve worn them in countless races including my very first half marathon and, until today, I have never had an issue with the zipper. But there was an ugly moment before the water station near mile 5 where I took off a glove, struggled with the zipper, finally got the zipper open, dropped the glove, ran back 5 feet to retrieve the glove, opened the gel and got half of the gel and part of the wrapper stuck to my cheek. With my luck this was probably all captured by a race photographer. I didn’t need the second gel, but I guess it’s a good thing I brought a backup.
I tried to rein in my pace a bit on mile 6 and 7 (7:27 and 7:21) though I was still feeling pretty good and felt confident that I could finish with a sub-7:30 pace. Miles 8 and 9 are on a nice, long descent and they wind through my old neighborhood, so my pace (7:14 and 7:16) reflects the terrain and my excitement to be back on one of my previous running routes.
Then there’s a left turn onto 45th St. and a dreadful mile with a bit of an ascent while the sun is directly in everyone’s face. I’ve done this race three times now and this stretch on 45th is always the point where I have to start giving myself pep talks (“Less than 30 minutes, you can do this! Don’t give up now!”). I covered mile 10 in 7:29 and was elated to take a right onto Duval and get out of the sun and hit some more downhills in miles 11 and 12 (7:21 and 7:13)*.
*I was wearing a long sleeved shirt over a tank top and started to get a little warm at this point. I wanted to roll up my sleeves but I’d fastened my Garmin over the sleeve on my left arm so I’d easily be able to check my pace. After much wristband wrangling and paranoia about dropping my Garmin I managed to get my sleeves rolled up and the Garmin back on my wrist but I hit the pause button a bunch of times. So somewhere in miles 11 and 12 are about 2o seconds of time that the Garmin didn’t capture.
My legs felt trashed by the time I got to mile 13. I was really determined to maintain sub-7:30 pace and not completely bonk on the little uphill before the finish like I did last year. This was why I asked my boyfriend to please be at the finish line– as I approached the hill I told myself that he was in one of the groups of people watching me, so keep it together, stay strong, etc. It was very motivating! I can’t say I sprinted to the finish but I covered mile 13 in 7:19 and the last bit in ~7:00 pace.
The Garmin data (minus 20 seconds):
Apparently I ran a 10K PR today as well:
(I’m not actually counting that as a PR.)
After the race we got some breakfast tacos, went to the Alamo Drafthouse so I could get my traditional post-race fries and beer (Shiner Bock), and then braved Ikea on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I will sleep well tonight.
I’m really happy with my race today. I haven’t run a big PR since 2014 and I’m pleased that I ran this one 100% healthy. I maxed out at 40 miles a week while training for 3M this year and I’m not sure I can see a need for me to go much higher than that while training for a half. The Runner’s World Running Streak— while not something I am planning to do again– forced me to keep my easy miles easy, which in turn helped me be able to run some fast miles during my long runs. I think those long runs gave me the stamina and confidence I needed for today’s time.
I have a few races lined up for the spring and I’m hoping I’ll have another PR or two in 2016. But first I’m going to take some time for recovery and very minimal running. I was burned out like whoa just two weeks ago, so it’s time for a break.